Baby Stuff: My Metaphorical Luxury Car

In the past 5 years I’ve had and so far, successfully cultivated 2 babies.  I had a baby girl in the British winter and a baby boy in perennial Asian sunshine.  I suspect that I’ve spent the equivalent of a significant luxury car on items for and related to them, not least because for the reasons just mentioned there was little opportunity for hand me downs from one to the other.   Anyway, I’m not writing this to stop you making my mistakes, because frankly, I quite enjoyed making the mistakes and I don’t want to deny anyone the pleasure.  Maybe, though, just maybe, there will be something in here that will help you get a few more miles to the gallon for your own personal metaphorical Ferrari.

  1. The Transport

I can safely say, if I had my baby time again, with regard to prams and buggies, I’d still have very little idea what this little minefield is actually all about.  My experience was, at 5 months pregnant, me and (fake willing) husband went to the Baby Show at the NEC.  We had an open mind, an open wallet, an open boot coupled with the naïve glow of soon to be parents who have no idea what they are letting themselves in for.

We bought ourselves a Maclaren XLR travel system.  Whilst the sales lady did her pitch about attachments, suitability from birth, safety specifications etc., the following things were running through the pre-parental Wilsons minds.  Dad:  Don’t Maclaren make racing cars?  Me:  the colour is called CHAMPAGNE!!  Within days our ride arrived in several packages that my stepmother was able to assemble for us.  We were entirely happy with our purchase.  That was until we experienced the phenomenon that is ……. “other people’s prams”.

So shortly after our purchase, it became evident that the pram of choice for mums of a certain genre (ie mine) was the Bugaboo Bee.  This is the high spec Lexus of the buggy world.  It is pricey, but stylish, in a range of nice pretty colours, of which I believe a champagne “type” is available.  On chatting to owners, allegedly it is also great at turning, easy to collapse and light, with a massive shopping basket.  None of these traits particularly out trumped my Maclaren, but I do admit to feeling a bit left out, like someone in the 70s with a Betamax video.

Then I saw someone with a Phil and Teds.  What a beast!  It looked like one of those long nosed racing cars with (sort of) actual car wheels.  Later that year on a park walk in the snow, it showed its merits when that mum got home in time for Neighbours while the rest of us just about made it back for Panorama.

Then there was Posh Spice in Heat pushing an I-Candy.  This one was so SHINY!   In my simple world shininess out trumps most other features in most product categories.  That was my first experience of true buggy envy.

The thing is though, from what I can see, most kids end up in a Maclaren at some point, so maybe we didn’t do so badly.  I just wish it had been more shiny!

  1. The Clothes

Baby clothing is soft and cute.   It is also an area of potentially gargantuan wastage.  With my first born, I had a baby shower in July when it was sunny.  I accrued 23 short  sleeved rompers in sizes covering 0-6 months.  No exaggeration.  Holly’s 1st – 6th months (September – March) required significant sleevage.   It is with this in mind that I massively encourage secondhand acquisition of baby clothes because it will be highly likely that some will be barely, perhaps even never worn.   The problem arrives however when a baby reaches the weaning stage and is exposed to the phenomenon that is ORANGE FOOD.  Orange food stains everything forever.  Make hay while the food is white.

The second point on clothing is on the subject of outfits.  Many people will say not to bother with these because all you need for the first few months are sleep suits.    Are you kidding?  Have these people never seen a little baby girl’s feet in soft pink tights?  Have they never seen a baby boy in a teeny AC DC t-shirt?  My case rests on this final point.  My baby Holly, probably the cutest in the world, lost out at the Chertsey Bonny Baby contest to a little boy dressed in a tweed suit.  That happened.

  1. The Accessories

I read something recently about how big the universe is, which is infinite.  I think that this is also true of the number of available accessories for babies.  With this in mind I am going to focus on just 2:  Slings and Changing Bags.

Slings:  For me, there was a distinct difference in sling usage across 1st and 2nd babies.   First time round it was to look cute, second time around it was to be able to leave the house.    So I guess what I’m saying is you can’t go wrong with a sling.  It’s either cute or essential.  And, though mine rarely did, I’ve seen babies asleep in slings for HOURS… (even in soft plays).

Changing Bags:  I’ve been a fan of bags for about 85% of my life, so the nappy bag purchase was one that excited me.   5 years on, I still remain disappointed by the offer. I have never felt nappy bag envy and it’s a negative sentiment I longed to feel.  I settled for the closest thing to a happy place, which was a polka dot Cath Kidston, both practical and pretty.  I’m now just in the market for any old big bags so the moment has passed for me, but for future bag loving mummies, I hope the industry doesn’t disappoint you too.

  1. The Toys

In 2009, I lived in a house that didn’t really contain any toys other than the odd teddy and promotional Andrex puppy.  Now, in 2015, my home is 67% toys.    The ratio of plastic to wicker has reversed in plastic’s favour dramatically.  I hereby present you with two points of interest:

a) The fickleness of babies.

When Holly was born I was given a “Taggy”, a square of fluffy material surrounded by tags of other material in many lovely shades and textures.  The giver told me her children LOVED them.  Holly refused to acknowledge its existence.  “But Holly, it’s a TAGGY”, I would say to her, but no, zero interest.  It was similar with Sophie Le Giraffe, the must have toy designed to miraculously soothe teething babies.  Holly eventually did bond with a toy.  She was 2 years and 5 months by that point and the objective of her still begrudging affection was a singing Barney dinosaur.  Ben, after the obligatory offers of the Taggy and Sophie, settled on sucking the very existence out of the legs of a small blue Mothercare snuggly.

I could not have predicted either of these two outcomes, nor are they the same as any other kids I know.  You’ve just got to work it out.

b) Three toys that seem to delight ALL toddlers

These are the IKEA cooker, the IKEA circus tent and the Little Tikes red and yellow push along/sit in car.    Everyone I know who has a toddler has these as do most local businesses that need to provide a toddler distraction area.  If one of the cars appears on any of the secondhand selling sites out here in Malaysia, it goes within seconds.  It’s a while since I’ve toddled, so I have no idea why they appeal, but believe me, they do.

  1. The Memorabilia

Over the past 4 years, I have accrued the following:  2 bracelets, 4 sets of cufflinks with foot and handprints of each child, photos from 6 professional photo shots, footprints on ceramics and baubles, 4 large IKEA boxes of first shoes/rompers/hospital bracelets and a growing box of every greeting card that I have either sent to them or them to me (via Daddy).  Whilst this is saving memories of things I could never forget in a billion years either way, I still love every little bit of it.

And so, to conclude, I would say shopping for babies is like Dorothy trying to get home from the land of Oz.  I can tell you how to do it, but you’ve just got to work it out for yourselves.  So, when bargains come along snap them up, afterwards pass ‘em on… but mostly jump in, rev it up and enjoy the metaphorical ride.

Contributed by our guest blogger Jackie Wilson. Jackie has worked extensively in marketing for brands including Twinings, Del Monte, Kingsmill and Cathedral City.  She is now living the ex-pat dream in Malaysia. She’s mum to two lovely children and is combining looking after them with some freelance writing, most recently for Bonda, the magazine for Malaysia’s equivalent of the NCT and ABWM Mag (Association of British Women in Malaysia).  Her Malaysian journey is chronicled at http://www.malaysiamummy@wordpress.com or if you’d like to get in touch she can be found at Jackie.wilson71@gmail.com.

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Lewisham Toy Library – OR Why being Cheap made me richer

I’m cheap. Very cheap. Many of our food containers are former jam jars or takeaway containers. I have been known to wash paper plates for reuse. I love Lewisham markets for the sheer volume of food you can get for 10 quid.

And to give that some additional weight – I think my wife and I have spent less than 100 pounds on clothing and toys for our two year old son. Ever.

Which is why, when we first moved to Brockley, my wife Googled ‘Lewisham Toy Library’. I’m glad she did, because being a member has enriched our lives beyond the satisfaction of saving money.

Reduce Re-Use Recycle

I am a Corporate Social Responsibility consultant, which means that where possible I want to find options that encourage collaborative consumption. I’m a member of Zipcar, offer things on Streetbank with some regularity and use trains to travel around the UK. I don’t own a drill, because on average they get 8 minutes of use for their whole working lives and draw down on many resources that really could be better used elsewhere.

I also love this little gem of an idea which seems to be expanding across London – the Micro-Library in a phone box, the one below is on the corner of Tyrwhitt Road and Lewisham Way. We’ve exchanged so many books here I can hardly imagine what it would have cost us otherwise.

LTL1

So joining any kind of Library (almost the original architect of the ‘new’ sharing economy) was a personal joy and professional obligation. And the benefits to our planet are enormous. The amount of plastic that is used for toys (and disposed of as landfill) is truly disturbing.

Packaging. What’s with Toys and packaging?

And please don’t ask me about packaging – the wasted plastic and other materials often pale in significance when you look at the amount of ‘air’ (empty space) that is shipped multiple times around the globe creating a surprisingly large carbon footprint. Some experts claim that plastic has a higher carbon footprint than steel, mainly because of the way we use things like plastic in toys.

You can find out more about the plastic problem at the Plastic Disclosure Project.

LT2

Other Benefits

But it’s the surprising other benefits that I find myself enjoying. Several examples from recent loans highlight the benefits of using the Toy Library:

  • Different Ability dolls – My son has barely enjoyed any toy more than the girl in a wheelchair that he zooms around at speed. Barriers be damned – I feel kinda sorry for the next person he meets actually in a wheelchair – suspect they are in for a fast ride!
  • Chinese Food sets – I would never have bought a set of plastic toys with pork buns, spring rolls and red-bean patties, but my son thinks they are normal food now!
  • Puzzles ‘Too Hard’ – I really like getting puzzles that are too difficult. Sometimes the boy steps up and can do them, other times they go back undone, but I know I’ve tried to keep ahead of his development. We have also maintained a stream of different kinds of puzzles which means he is always being stretched and having fun.
  • Costumes – I haven’t actually used this one yet, but the ability to get a Fire Officer costume (among many) for a party or other play at almost no cost seems like such a winning strategy.
  • Bells / Whistles Fire Truck – It made all sorts of noise and he loved it for a month. And then it went back. I would never buy it, but he gets to play with them at an age-relevant time and I don’t have to suffer the long term hatred of some of the most annoying noises known to humanity.

The toys also come with batteries, almost all of which are rechargeable. The Library decided that the landfill and other issues related to disposal and manufacture of batteries was simply too big a problem to ignore. (And I don’t have to buy batteries either!)

Being a member has also allowed us a good degree of sanity in terms of keeping our lounge room looking at least a little bit uncluttered and akin to an adult space.

I’m pretty relaxed about such things but yes, all toys are cleaned after each use!

LT3

Party Stuff

The Toy Library will even hire out party equipment (like tables and chairs) and big party-focussed toys at super-cheap rates.

Access and Costs

The Lewisham Toy Library’s Opening Hours are two hours on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and for five hours every second Saturday.

Rates for annual membership are as follows:

  • Recipients of Income Support – Free
  • Families / Carers – £24
  • Childminders (with Certificate) – £15
  • Groups – £50

Groups can loan 12 toys (up to 4 ‘large’) while other members can loan 5, for up to 4 weeks with options to renew and reserve. Of course late fees apply, but no other charges are made for loaning toys.

You can Benefit Too!

The first thing you can do is join the Library. Use it and save money or supplement your toys with carefully selected age-specific ones.

The second thing you can do is help the Library to remain viable. Unfortunately, due to massive reduction in funding from Lewisham Council, who have been our primary and most wonderful supporter [i], we need to find new funding sources . Anyone who has any ideas, or would like to be part of reshaping the future of the Lewisham Toy Library, please contact me – dwayne.baraka@yahoo.co.uk.

When I say ideas, I mean:

  • venues with available space or space to share
  • possible partners (childcare centres and the like are an obvious possibility)
  • collaboration opportunities

We also need volunteers from time to time, including professionals to assist us with the management of the Library and its events.

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In the interests of full disclosure, I am a Trustee of the Lewisham Toy Library, and currently a Group member, at least in part as a way to provide financial support.

[i] Poor Lewisham Councillors – I’ve seen the scale of the cuts they have to make and it’s terrible for them too. I think they’d like to do more for the Lewisham Toy Library.

How to snack properly…..

Is snacking a healthy habit to get my kids into? 
 
To snack or not to snack? Confusion on whether to give your child something small between meals is quite topical as ‘snacking’ has been somewhat demonized. This is thanks to the never ending fat and sugar debates that surround the food industry and the growing rate of childhood obesity.  Snacking is healthy and can benefit your growing munchkin(s) when done properly. Here are some top tips to snacking healthily:
 
It’s all about timing 
Children are great at understanding their hunger and will naturally feel hungry at certain intervals over the day. This is due to the stomach emptying and energy levels reducing over time as it’s being used through learning, play, general body needs and growth.  For this reason, they will need something small between meals to ‘top up’. ie. Morning tea, afternoon tea and supper.
 
It’s about portion size 
Unless you have been living under a rock, you will have noticed how servings for both adults and children have increased over the last 20-30 years. For this reason, it is important to be aware of what an appropriate portion size is for your child.
A rough guide to snack ideas:
80g Fresh fruit
80g Canned fruit in natural juice
150-200g Yoghurt
3-4 Wholegrain crackers with 30g cheese
Cream cheese (50g) with vegetable sticks
Occasional small chocolate/ cake/ biscuits (~150kcals)
Fruit Smoothie (200ml)
 
Snack and treats are different, not the same.  
A ‘snack’ is an occasion of eating, not a type of food. Snacks that are high in fat and sugars (sweets, cakes, chocolate, crisps, biscuits, etc…) tend to be those with lower nutritional benefits (reduced fibre, vitamins and minerals) and for this reason, it is good to associate these snacks as ‘treats’ or ‘sometimes’ foods. Don’t know how to judge a food label? Check out a post I did here (http://www.dietduchess.com/2013/12/12/the-dos-and-donts-to-reading-food-labels/) on the Dos and Don’ts to reading food labels.
 
It’s not a reward 
Food is never a reward. Trust me on this, you don’t want your child to grow up with an association of food = reward/ comfort. As an obesity dietitian, I daily support patients trying to get out of the habit of comfort eating and it’s a hard one to crack at times.  Instead of food, consider reward charts, stickers, an extra 15 minute at their favourite playground, colouring sheets, etc.
 
It’s not a distraction 
Just like adults, kids can be bored and will wander into the kitchen for a ‘little something’. Consider when your child last ate and when you know they are next eating. If it has been a while or it will be a while, they are likely hungry and a snack is justifiable.  If not, distract them.
 
Fussy eating doesn’t just occur at meal times 
Snack time is also an occasion when fussy eating can be displayed. A general rule for fussy eating – offer the snack to your child around 17 times. If they’re not keen after this amount of exposure, they generally don’t like the snack (taste and or texture). Struggling with fussy eating? Chat to your GP who can refer you to a dietitan for support.
 
Role model 
You’re a superhero in your child’s eyes, so to help in-still healthy habits into your child’s lifestyle, reflect this.  Snacking is healthy for both adults and children a like, so if your child sees you regularly eating a variety of healthy choices as snacks they too will slowly adopt this. Remember: ‘the door swings both ways!’ If you eat for boredom/ stress/ comfort they may learn these unhealthy behaviours too. For this reason, if you feel you are finding it difficult with managing your eating habits or your child’s for that matter, seek support by chatting to your GP or a dietitian.
 
Now your turn, what’s your ‘go to’ snack option? Mine’s a small whole meal pita toasted with cheese and Vegemite.
 
Perryn Carroll – Registered Dietitian MNutrDiet BSP&ExSc
Twitter: @PerrynCarroll
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M.A.B! Me After Babies.

It’s been nearly 5 years now since the line appeared on the stick that signified the imminent arrival of my first born and nearly 2 years since that of the second.  I’ve changed.  Or have I?  I often wonder if deep down I’ve actually changed or if my little babies just brought out the real me?  What has 5 years, 2 births and the small matter of expatriation to Malaysia actually done to the girl formerly known as me and more importantly, is she any better?  So, apart from the obvious, here are some of the big things that making a couple of humans did to me:

  1. I’m now a writer

Before my babies and 2 years post, I worked in Brand Management.  Now I write.  Through the circumstance of creating my humans and a little pause in career proceedings I was able to see that quite simply what I was best at before was the “proportion” of my old working world that could be the whole of my new one.  And I love it.

  1. I “neglect” my husband (there I said it)

There are so many facets to this its worthy of its own private whole blog.  I don’t know many mums at home with babies who don’t have the “but my life is harder than yours” conversation with their husbands several times a week.  The simple fact is that no-one in full time work will ever buy that staying at home minding 7 – 10lbs of cuteness could be at all hard.  I never did…before.  I thought “at home” mums were laughing all the way to the nappy bin, but hey I’m not here to argue that.  The neglect to which I’m confessing is attention.  Most of the time I’ve just got nothing left in the tank for him.  The irony of this was brought to mind by a good friend of mine who said “I love him more than ever, but can show it the least”.  It’s so true.  My husband is an AMAZING dad.  When he walks through the door after work and my two babies light up like happy sparklers my heart does flips in my chest so it almost hurts.  Can I tell him that?  Not a chance.  I just hope he can hang in there till “hot loving me” comes back, coz she will, I just have no idea when.

  1. I know a whole lot more about how my specific crazy body works

There’s nothing like a pregnancy and childbirth to bring to life the intricacies of reproductive biology.  For me though, it went a bit further.  After 20 years of odd periods, 4 identical miscarriages at 7 weeks and a struggle to lose some baby weight I suspected there might be “a thing”.  The epiphany came after nearly a year of trying to shift over a stone of tummy and inner thigh weight that making Ben and fueling my breastfeeding generously left behind.  As a last resort to shift it I tried a high protein, low carb approach to eating.  Kerpow!  I lost nearly 10lbs in 3 weeks!  The best thing about was that in eating less I just wanted less.   I still have no exact name for “the thing” but I’m guessing it’s linked to blood sugar and regardless I know how to manage it.  Thanks babies.

  1. I “get it”

By this I meant the absolute mesmerising joy of little humans.  I never did before.  Every time a friend revealed a pregnancy, I confess (again) to just mentally writing her off for a few years.  I always declared that kids didn’t like me and placed myself in situations mostly where they were not.  I started to get it when my sister had her first baby, where I found myself leaving my first meeting with him weeping at the prospect of anything bad ever happening to the gorgeous little munchkin that gripped my little finger.  Now I just love them all, even the loud, annoying ones.  I can  see the innocent, beautiful preciousness in all of them and suddenly, mostly, they like me too.  Funny that.

  1. I haven’t really changed THAT much

There’s no doubt that life changes forever after babies.  Multiple consecutive drinking nights, lie ins till lunch, weeks in Ibiza (of that kind) are no longer realistic or wanted.  Me though, I will always long to rock the party.  I still love getting dressed up, I love champagne, I love dancing.  If you ask me on a night out I will come (beware).  My heart will beat faster at sparkly shoes and twirly dresses.  I long for light up dance floors and will gladly occupy one alone if you won’t come with me.    The only real difference is that I’ll be home before midnight and I’ll remember the pint of water before bed.

So, the post baby me is a writing, husband neglecting, size 12, kid loving, party animal.  I guess that’s mostly better, just temporarily worse for husband.

I however, like me better because I made THEM and I know deep down he does too.

Contributed by our guest blogger Jackie Wilson. Jackie has worked extensively in marketing for brands including Twinings, Del Monte, Kingsmill and Cathedral City.  She is now living the ex-pat dream in Malaysia. She’s mum to two lovely children and is combining looking after them with some freelance writing, most recently for Bonda, the magazine for Malaysia’s equivalent of the NCT and ABWM Mag (Association of British Women in Malaysia).  Her Malaysian journey is chronicled at http://www.malaysiamummy@wordpress.com or if you’d like to get in touch she can be found at Jackie.wilson71@gmail.com.

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The Secret Nanny

A few weeks ago my mother-in-law, who hasn’t worked since the birth of her first child some 35 years ago, cheerfully announced that she thinks mothers these days are terrible whingers, complaining about how difficult it all is. Especially disgraceful are those who compare working to parenthood: I mean, their jobs can’t have been very taxing, can they, if hanging around with a baby is just as hard!

For many of her generation of mothers, there was a very clear divide between paid work and early motherhood that meant that the two occupations rarely had to be squeezed into one life at the same time. Nowadays, of course, things are very different and the unique challenge of balancing a career and a family means that parents now have to factor some kind of childcare into their daily lives. Not only do paid work and parenthood now co-exist, you also have to pay someone to share the work of parenthood some of the time.

No wonder then that many parents struggle with the social, emotional and financial etiquette of hiring someone to look after their children. It could be the first time you have hired anyone to do a job for you personally, apart from a plumber, and you might feel horribly uncomfortable being an employer and having ‘staff’. It might mean letting a stranger into your home and family, or sending your baby to a stranger’s home. And once you have gone through the hassle of finding your perfect carer, how do you hang onto them?

I worked as a live-out nanny for several years on and off. I looked after children from 18 months to 5 years old, with families in different circumstances and environments. I am not trained, just someone who really enjoys taking care of little ones. I am also not a parent, so can’t really empathise with the potentially agonising process of negotiating the childcare minefield. But let me offer a few thoughts from the nanny’s point of view, that might just help you find and keep a nanny who will genuinely be an enrichment to your child and your whole family.

What do you want your nanny to be?

Before you even meet a potential nanny, really think about what you want for yourself and your family. Do you want a fully-trained, registered Mary Poppins-type with a magic technique for cracking potty training and a perfect Heimlich-manoeuvre? With a whiff of TV’s Super-nanny about her, all crisp, matronly cotton and uncanny insight into your child’s psyche? Sounds lovely, and a good agency may be able to find her for you. But what if they don’t? Because, in reality, many candidates will have a police check, basic first-aid, and that’s about it. I had neither of those things. Maybe what really matters is less quantifiable than that: a natural empathy with your child; a genuine love of play and nurturing; lots of patience and smiles; the feeling that you can trust them and that they will put your child’s safety and wellbeing first. Perhaps this is why, according to the annual Nannytax survey, almost half of families base the decision to hire a nanny on a recommendation from a friend: there’s no certificate for being lovely.

Now, I am in no way suggesting that childcare qualifications are not important: they are and if you aren’t lucky enough to be given a trustworthy recommendation, what else do you have to go on? Indeed, there is a limit to how far you should rely on your instincts: I was once hired in a café by a mum I got chatting to while with another of ‘my’ kids. Impressed by how comfortable the toddler was, she asked if I was looking for more work and took my number. Incredibly, the next day I found myself out alone with her kids in central London with no further vetting at all. She didn’t know my surname, address, nothing. I could have been anyone!

Assuming you want to be a little more discerning than that, how do you make sure? The best families I worked for spent at least two full days with me and the kids together. This is a chance to ask questions, see the nanny interact with your child and get to know them better. And it works both ways: I turned down a job once after spending a day with a family who spent most of the time listing the tasks I should perform and taking no notice of how their daughter felt about me. So don’t forget, the nanny is interviewing you too. Be really clear up front about what you expect from your nanny, and be prepared to negotiate on it: so you want ironing too? Cooking? Shopping? Babysitting? Someone to remember your auntie’s birthday? Be realistic: this is childcare, not household staff or a personal assistant.

Once your nanny starts, do keep an eye on things, but don’t over-do it. Make sure everything is fine: I have known of nannies who were, essentially, secretly doing two jobs at once and some who were taking kids to run their errands all day, so don’t check out entirely. But also bear in mind that some of the toughest times for everyone – nanny, parents and kids – are when the boundaries of who is in charge are blurry. One of my mums worked at home, so would reappear unexpectedly and invariably at an awkward time while I was trying to apply some discipline or halfway through dinnertime, often prompting chaos. Most annoyingly, her 5-year old would sometimes object to my decision on something (snack, raincoat etc.) and run upstairs to mum complaining, usually successfully.

You may want your nanny to be Mary Poppins, but remember that she was both fictional and weird. Your nanny is real: at the end of a likely 10-12 hour shift looking after your kids, just like you she will be knackered and will have struggled with the exact same things you have when you get to the end of the day. If she still has a smile on her face, you’re onto a winner.

What does your nanny want you to be?

One mother I worked for would regularly ask me to take her kids on playdates after school. We would get the bus to someone’s house and then she would meet us there and usher me out, leaving me stranded across town without my bike. Another would think nothing of asking me, during my 45 minute break in a 12-hour day (during which I also cooked dinner for later), to run out to the shops for her. Yet another saw me as some kind of mobile nursery and would expect me to turn up at 9am during the summer holidays, remove her 5-year old and 3 year-old from the house, and not return with them until 5pm, regardless of the weather. As a nanny, I would expect that my job looking after your kids is afforded respect and empathy: would you think it fine to not sit down for 12 hours? Or to be out and about in the rain with two kids for 8 hours straight without a rest?

I have always been willing to help out around the house where I can, and cooking and cleaning up after the kids is part of the job. But I do not expect to be treated like housekeeper, secretary, au pair, waitress or general dogsbody. Apply the self-test: if it seems like too much for you to do in one day, then it is too much for your nanny (and probably your kids!).

Remember that, ultimately, this is a job for me. It’s fantastic when your nanny feels like part of the family, but don’t let that spill into neglect of their time and energy: the average working week for a nanny is 51-60 hours, so let her go promptly. Several mothers I have worked for have come to feel that I am their friend, and loved to chat and even confide in me. This can be lovely and genuine, but remember that your nanny has her own family, home and life to go to at 7pm (mind you, a nanny should be flexible where possible- that’s just the reality of family life).

And…What do your kids want your nanny to be?

Well, that depends on both your kids and your nanny, of course. But for me, I found that being a nanny meant being something between parent and playmate. Firm and fair when necessary, but always energetic and playful when possible. Sometimes a child behaves differently with their nanny, and that could be a good thing. They may make up stories, tell secrets or just reveal different aspects of their personality, both good and challenging, all of which is surely healthy. I felt real, lasting love for some of the kids I’ve looked after and found that they were all happy to soak up affection whenever possible. But I am not their parent and a nanny is no competition for mummy or daddy, so try not to fret over the affection your child will hopefully return to their part-time carer. A good nanny is a bonus for them, an extra grown-up in their lives to lavish care and attention. Don’t expect anything less.

Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice – Baby Jumble’s north London charity partner

noahs_ark_logoNoah’s Ark is very proud to be Baby Jumble’s charity partner in North London. We receive 25% of all takings on the door and also any unsold stock at the end of the event, which is always great quality and enables us to raise vital funds to support our work with families across North London.

Noah’s Ark is an expanding children’s hospice service, seeking to serve an estimated 900 children with life-threatening and life-limiting conditions, and their families, living within the communities of North London, specifically the boroughs of Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey and Islington. To date Noah’s Ark has worked with 200 families.

Our aim is to support these families in a flexible way – responding to their specific circumstances with services that encompass the whole family enabling them to live positive lives and face the future with hope. The services provided range from practical and emotional support, outings for the family and, in some cases, end-of-life and bereavement care. Our service provision has grown in direct response to the families’ needs ands we have created an innovative range of services with them in mind.

Noah’s Ark currently has a very active community team, providing vital support to life-limited children and their families. Through initiatives like our Play Scheme, Siblings Support Programme, Family Support Volunteer Service, Family Days and Specialist Carers, we are able to offer families support where it is most needed, filing gaps in areas not supported by other service providers.

With land now acquired, this community work will, one day, be complemented by additional services within a hospice building. With a building, we will be able to offer overnight respite care and end-of-life care for those families that need it.

Noah’s Ark’s aim is to help families enjoy their lives together while their child is still alive or undergoing stressful treatment and go on to face the future with hope if their child dies. Our services have developed over time in response to the requirements of our families – we aim to provide what families say they want, when they want it and in a place of their choosing.

In order to achieve our aim, we need to raise £1.2million every year to maintain our existing service. Our dedicated fundraising team do this in a variety of ways, from community events to applications for grants and corporate support. We also have 3 successful charity shops in Barnet, Finchley Road and Borehamwood. Children’s items are always good sellers so the donations received after Baby Jumble sales are really valuable to us. If you can’t make it down to the next sale, pop into one of our shops for some great children’s wear, toys and kids furniture!

Apologies for the Utter Disgrace that is Me

If you tell me you are coming between 10 and 11, there’s a chance that I’ll be ready for 10.05 at a push. Don’t turn up at 9.25am or you will find me in a vest and pants, devoid of make up, with lion hair. There’ll be breakfast all over the floor, the children will be feral and undressed, the iron will be out and life is likely to be in general chaos. So, apologies Mr Upholsterer for the utter disgrace that is me.

I’m sorry that you found it difficult to look me in the eye. Perhaps it was due to the lack of make up and the fact that I was wearing a vest that was practically see through with just one Ugg boot, as I couldn’t get the other one on quick enough. And I thank you for pretending to ignore what looked like a tiny bit of hardened dog poo on the sofa. Honestly I’m not sure what it was, but I personally wouldn’t have touched it with my human hand. It was discarded, wrapped in a piece of kitchen roll as soon as you’d gone. All I can say is it had hairs in it. Sorry. Also, when you pulled the chaise longue out, I apologise for the layer of dust, fluff, old plastic toys, tissues and a small child’s coat hanger, that it revealed.

Please don’t tell the husband that the beautiful home and immaculately presented wife and children that welcome him home every evening is in fact, a charade.

Yours,
A (somewhat tatty, crazy looking, embarrassed, disgraced) Confused Take That Fan, 30+

Jo A

Check out more of Jo Avery’s musings on life at her ‘A Confused Take That Fan‘ blog.